News: German Federal Government

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XENOPHOBIC INCIDENTS

German government condems violence and rabble-rousing

The German government has roundly condemned the outbreaks of xenophobic violence in Clausnitz and Bautzen.

The "Husarenhof" Hotel in Bautzen was to be used as a refugee shelter.  In Bautzen a hotel earmarked for use as a refugee shelter was the scene of an arson attackPhoto: imago/xcitepress

Federal government spokesperson Steffen Seibert said in Berlin, “What we have seen in Clausnitz is deeply shaming. Our country knows that essentially these are people in need. We treat them with respect and compassion.”

Commenting on the incidents in Clausnitz, federal government spokesperson Steffen Seibert said that it is cold-hearted and cowardly to greet arriving refugees, many of them women and children, with hostility, harassing and abusing them. He stated, “Anyone who endorses the sort of thing we have seen in Clausnitz must be given a clear response from all official forces of the state.”

The majority of Germans in favour of respect and compassion

“It is good that there are so many people in Germany, and in the region where this happened, who demonstrate day in, day out that our country is not like that,” said Steffen Seibert. “Our country knows, in spite of all the political discussion as to the direction our refugee policy ought to take, that essentially these are people in need. And we treat them with respect and compassion. On this point the German government and the vast majority of people in Germany agree.”

Heiko Maas announces “justice summit”

Federal Minister of Justice Heiko Maas condemned the outrages in Saxony, which he described as disgusting and abhorrent. In an interview with the newspaper Hannoversche Allgemeine (on 22 February) he pointed to the dramatic rise in the number of crimes committed against refugee accommodation throughout Germany. 2015 saw a total of over 1,000 crimes of this sort.

This is not a development that we can tolerate, said Heiko Maas. “The state must strengthen and focus its forces.” A summit meeting is to be held in March at which the Federal Minister of Justice and the Ministers of Justice of the federal states will discuss ways of improving cooperation.

Existing laws must be applied more rigorously

“We must do all we can to ensure that no perpetrator escapes unpunished,” declared the Federal Minister of Justice in the run-up to the meeting. “We want to see to what extent we can improve cooperation among the authorities involved.” He also suggested that it might be helpful to introduce specialisation for public prosecutors, as is already the case in some federal states.

Prevention is also important. It must be our aim to “prevent any further radicalisation in our prisons.” The Federal Minister of Justice noted, “We do not need new laws; we simply need to rigorously apply the laws already on the statute books.”

Rather than new laws, what is needed is a “new culture of standing up to these rabble-rousers” said Heiko Maas in the newspaper Berliner Morgenpost (on 23 February). Everybody must do their bit – at home, at work, and in sports clubs. “We must stand up and be counted. We must open our mouths and unequivocally condemn racism and xenophobia. That does not only apply to politicians. We must not wait until the first lives are lost.”

Violence and rabble-rousing are not acceptable

Federal Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière also commented on the incidents. On Sunday, speaking on the television programme “Bericht aus Berlin”, he said when people come to Germany seeking protection, even if it subsequently emerges that they are not eligible and are required to leave the country again, they must not be greeted with violence, hatred or abuse.

On Thursday evening a crowd of about 100 people tried to block a bus that was bringing asylum-seekers to a new shelter in the Saxon town of Clausnitz, 40 kilometres south-west of Dresden. Saxon police officers and six federal police officers were in action. In Bautzen, another town in Saxony, the early hours of Sunday morning saw an arson attack on a planned refugee shelter.

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Robert Williams

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